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Picture Scramble # 30 30 August 2000

An Expanding Bubble in Space

An amazing hidden universe revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope. (40 pieces)

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Astronomers, using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 on board NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, imaged the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) with unprecedented clarity. The remarkably spherical "Bubble" marks the boundary between an intense wind of particles from the star and the more quiescent interior of the nebula. The central star of the nebula is 40 times more massive than the Sun and is responsible for a stellar wind moving at 4 million miles per hour (7 million kilometers per hour) which propels particles off the surface of the star. The bubble surface actually marks the leading edge of this wind's gust front, which is slowing as it plows into the denser surrounding material. The surface of the bubble is not uniform because as the shell expands outward it encounters regions of the cold gas, which are of different density and therefore arrest the expansion by differing amounts, resulting in the rippled appearance. It is this gradient of background material that the wind is encountering that places the central star off center in the bubble. There is more material to the northeast of the nebula than to the southwest, so that the wind progresses less in that direction, offsetting the central star from the geometric center of the bubble. At a distance of 7,100 light-years from Earth, the Bubble Nebula is located in the constellation Cassiopeia and has a diameter of 6 light-years.

Credits: NASA, Donald Walter (South Carolina State University), Paul Scowen and Brian Moore (Arizona State University) . Copyright © 2000-2007 by Calvin J. Hamilton & Randall L. Whipkey. All rights reserved. Privacy Statement.